Boot camp. I wake up at 3am every day to run seven miles and then I do 1,000 total reps of crunches, push-ups, jumping jacks, squats, lunges, pull-ups, no, no, no, no. None of that. I’m not fat and I’m not weak. I’m sure I get points for that. As far as physical training goes, I’m running several times a week, doing some weight training, going to some classes at the YMCA and I go to work, which is generally a physical job. Honestly, I still fully expect to be sore on the trail. The best way to train for a six month hike is to hike for six months. And I don’t have time to do that before I go. 🙂
The more important training is something I alluded to earlier: the psychological and emotional training. Nursing a rolled ankle is easy. Soothing a troubled mind is not. Pray, meditate, get some perspective, find joy in the little things, be grateful, stay present, be mindful, have an infallible sense of humor. I’m practicing all these things now, so when I hit the trail, I’m ready to face the challenges
As I try to mentally prepare for this adventure, I not only daydream about kicking off my boots, stripping off my socks and collapsing into my cozy hammock on a warm summer night under a canopy of hardwoods in Virginia, I also daydream about the thunderstorms, lugging a sopping wet pack while crouching and dodging blinding bolts of lightening; the thunder so deafening that I can’t hear my own cries of, “Rain, rain go away!” I daydream about sitting at a shelter picnic table comparing blisters with other thru-hikers, about cold, cold nights where I lay shivering in my 20 degree bag wearing every single layer of clothing I have while the wind is howling, sneaking its way under and around my tarp robbing any semblance of warmth my body has managed to generate. I try to imagine the worst scenarios so I’m not surprised when they happen. But then I start thinking about the next trail town where buildings are heated and I’ll spend the whole entire afternoon at an all-you-can eat Chinese buffet with fellow bedraggled hikers. We’ll first commiserate the weather, then as our bellies begin to digest gallons of rice, egg rolls and general tsao’s chicken, we’ll began to brighten up and before long be laughing and joking. Have a few local brews at the pub down the street. Check the weather. Either whine that the weather is too bad to hit the trail and squeeze six people into one motel room or give in to the undeniable itch to get back out there.
I try to imagine all the magnificent views, all the heartfelt generosity of trail angels, other hikers and just regular ol’ people. I think about eating dried fruit and tuna and peanut butter and corn tortillas and oatmeal and nuts and Clif bars. I think about shelter mice running over my legs while I slumber in my sleeping bag. I anticipate my frustration and soreness and then strategize how I’ll deal with it. I look forward to all the incredible people I’m going to meet and share this experience with. I look forward to breathing fresh mountain air, which I presume is different than fresh Wisconsin farm air. Less manure, more acid rain. I look forward to every single moment. Hearing different birds, burying my poop, seeing salamanders, climbing uphill with screaming calves and me screaming right back at them, leaning against gorgeous, weathered trees, fording mountain streams, showering for the first time in five days, doing laundry at a different laundromat every week.
I’m going to hit a wall though, sometime and I need to be ready for that. Whatever happens happens. Ya gotta roll with it. I fully expect this adventure to be painful, challenging, humbling, inspiring, beautiful and crazy awesome.